Okla. Baptists focus on individual evangelism
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (BP) -- An emphasis of sharing the Gospel was made throughout the reports, presentations and addresses at the 109th annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) at Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.
Messengers embraced an evangelism strategy for 2016 called the "3151 Challenge." Over a six-week time frame beginning in October, each person in a Sunday School small group prays for three lost friends, learns one Gospel presentation, invites five people to their small group and shares the Gospel with one person.
Bob Mayfield, BGCO Sunday School specialist, and Michael Napier, BGCO evangelism specialist, both emphasized the importance of churches evangelizing through Sunday School and small groups.
"How many of you would like to baptize more people in 2016 than you baptized in 2015?" Mayfield asked. "We are excited about this. We want to see more people, just like you do, come to Jesus Christ. What would you do if you could discover a plan to engage more church members to share with more lost people, to create more Gospel conversations to bring more people to Jesus?"
The evangelism emphasis will be presented in LifeWay Christian Resources' 2016 Bible Studies for Life Sunday School curriculum, Mayfield said.
During the Nov. 9-10 meeting, messengers approved the BGCO's proposed financial plan of $24.5 million, $912,000 less than the 2015 budget of $25,412,000. Anthony Jordan, BGCO executive director-treasurer, said the financial plan is "conservative because of the slumping economy in Oklahoma."
Messengers voted to continue allocating 40 percent of the budget, or $9,800,000, for Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries. The budget then will be divided 44 percent or $10,865,300 for the BGCO, and 16 percent or $3,834,700 for BGCO affiliated ministries (Oklahoma Baptist University, Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, Baptist Village Communities and The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma).
Hance Dilbeck, pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, was elected to a second term as BGCO president. Richard Stillwell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Walters, was elected first vice president in a close race over Terrell Romberg, pastor of First Baptist Church in Cordell. Jeff Moore, pastor of First Baptist Church in Altus, was unopposed in his election as second vice president.
Addresses and reports
Dilbeck gave the presidential address based on Mark 1:14-15, titled "After John was put in prison." Dilbeck compared the imprisonment of John the Baptist to the "overwhelming culture change" against Christian expression today, and said we should respond how Jesus responded after John was arrested.
"When John was put in prison, Jesus did not run and hide. Jesus did not raise an army. Jesus did not even go to the capitol and protest," Dilbeck said. "Jesus stayed in Galilee and preached the Gospel."
Blake Gideon, pastor of First Baptist Church in Edmond, gave a message in support of the "Connect>1" emphasis. Preaching from I Corinthians 2:1-2, Gideon said, "The church is to be militant. And our weapon is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.... It is the hope for our country. We can't vote our way out of the situation we're in, but we sure can evangelize our way out of it."
Gideon's sermon led to a prayer time, which prompted pastors and church leaders to come to the front altar and pray for their respective churches to commit to sharing the Gospel next year.
Jordan, in his annual address, bemoaned the "10,000 children in the custody of the state of Oklahoma," issuing a challenge to pastors and churches to "step up to the task" of providing foster homes and adoptive parents for those children.
"Oklahoma Baptists can make a difference," Jordan stressed, as he announced an initiative to provide 500 foster care homes through a joint effort with Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children. "We will be in the middle of this, and the loudest voice will be mine," said Jordan, who along with his wife Polla, raised two adopted children.
Jordan also emphasized the need to take the Gospel to Native Americans, Hispanics who comprise the second-largest population segment in the state, and 200,000 college students in the state.
Sam Dyer, pastor of First Baptist Church in Heavener, delivered the BGCO annual sermon. His sermon also led to a time of prayer, as he asked pastors to come forward to pray for lost people at the altar.
In a brief BGCO Conference Center report, Falls Creek program director Andy Harrison emphasized the professions of faith and other spiritual decisions made, in spite of the summer schedule that was affected by a major flood in June. CrossTimbers program director Glenn Barber highlighted salvation stories, as well as record-breaking attendance numbers for the camp's summer weeks.
Jason Langley, BGCO Conference Centers director, spoke of the response from BGCO staff and disaster relief volunteers in getting both Falls Creek and CrossTimbers Children's Mission Adventure Camp back in working order in time to observe remaining summer camp weeks. The conference centers, Langley said, are on track to host nearly 90,000 people in 2015.
A meeting highlight was the announcement of BGCO's commitment to partner with mission leaders in the country of Latvia. Peteris Sprogis of the Latvian Baptist Union and Jordan signed a formal written agreement to a three-year commitment of Oklahoma Baptists serving in Latvia.
Sam Porter, BGCO Partnership Missions specialist, led a report on BGCO continuing its partnership with the Guerrero Baptist Convention in Mexico. Mark McClellan, dean of the Robert Haskins School of Leadership and evangelism specialist, translated for Luis Gomez, executive director of the Guerrero Baptist Convention, who shared they well surpassed their goal of church plants, which was to have 25 churches by 2010 and 15 more by 2015. Currently, there are more than 50 churches in Guerrero.
Other reports focused on disaster relief, the Baptist Village Communities, Baptist Collegiate Ministries, the GoStudents mobilization group, The Baptist Foundation, Oklahoma Baptist University, church history, distinguished service awards, the Baptist Messenger, the Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, the Cooperative Program and church planting.
Messengers approved six resolutions, including ones on current social and church subjects.
"The resolutions committee prayerfully worked through various important topics in the culture and the church today, and we came forth with what we believe were strong statements about our convictions," said Jeremy Freeman, chairman of the 2015 Resolutions Committee.
In addition to a resolution of appreciation to the 2015 annual meeting host church, messengers approved a resolution promoting religious liberty, affirming human life and opposing Planned Parenthood, affirming marriage and marital faithfulness, renewing a commitment to personal evangelism and baptisms, and encouraging civic involvement.
In opposing Planned Parenthood, messengers called on "policymakers to redirect taxpayer funds away from Planned Parenthood toward more reputable medical providers of women's health."
In the resolution promoting religious liberty, messengers called on President Obama and all world leaders to promote and actively defend religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all people.
The BGCO's 110th annual meeting is scheduled for Nov. 14-15, 2016, at Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.